The Malta Independent 17 May 2022, Tuesday

PN anti-corruption bill fails to pass as government votes against

Giuseppe Attard Thursday, 27 January 2022, 19:09 Last update: about 5 months ago

The Nationalist Party’s mega-sized anti-corruption Bill has failed to pass Parliament, after the government voted en-masse against the proposed amendments. 

37 MPs voted against the Bill, while 27 voted in favour, meaning that the majority required for the Bills to pass had not been achieved. 

Government Whip Glenn Bedingfield said before the vote – to jeering from the Opposition benches – that the government would be voting against the Bill because of how all 11 different laws had been bundled together into one and rushed through in Parliament. 

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He said that the government is committed to carrying out the reforms recommended by the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death in a more serious manner. 

The three-hour sitting saw addresses from PN MPs Jason Azzopardi and Therese Commodini Cachia, followed by Justice Minister Edward Zammit Lewis and Prime Minister Robert Abela, with Opposition Leader Bernard Grech closing the debate.

Addressing Parliament in his speech, Prime Minister Abela said that Malta is more democratic than ever before today owing to the system of checks and balances that the Labour government has introduced. 

He went through a raft of regulations which the government had introduced, such as those which he said had earned praise from the Venice Commission, and other reforms related to the appointment of the judiciary, saying that he is the Prime Minister who has relinquished the most power from government through the reforms. 

Abela also spoke of the recent appointment of a committee of media experts to give their recommendations on a set of laws drafted by the government in response to the conclusions of the public inquiry into Daphne Caruana Galizia’s death, and tabled the proposed Bills in Parliament. 

Abela criticized the PN for lumping all of the Bills into one group and expecting a vote to take place after just three hours of discussion. 

He said that the PN had presented a ‘minestra’ where they threw in absolutely everything they could, thinking they can push people into voting for everything at once. 

Turning to the content of the Bills, Abela noted how the Opposition had proposed an interim government led by the Prime Minister and the Opposition Leader. “Without any mandate, the Opposition leader wants to become the head of government,” Abela said. 

“This populist way of leading will never lead the Nationalist Party to government,” Abela said. 

He said that the Opposition has never spoken about a single positive aspect of Malta, and that the people have rejected their narrative one too many times, and yet they still do not realize. 

Abela said that the law would link Malta to the mafia, and that he would not allow it, and accused the PN of being against anyone who achieved any success, and any business which had succeeded. 

‘History will judge us on the decision we take today’ - Bernard Grech 

Opposition leader Bernard Grech meanwhile gave a critical speech in parliament on the ramifications of voting against the anti-corruption Bills. 

In reaction to Abela’s speech, Grech called out the Prime Minister for being detached from society due to remarks made that the Opposition is bullying businesses and public officials to submit to their rule. 

Grech also noted that although Abela stated that the institutions are working individually and also spoke in favour of them, “one cannot have the government whip Glen Bedingfield attacking them continuously. The Bills proposed are one way to ensure that the institutions work independently.” 

Responding to criticism as to why these reforms weren’t made when the PN was in government before 2013, Grech said that Abela should have introduced them himself if he thought that they were needed, rather than wait for the Opposition to do so.

“It’s sad to see that the only argument the government has against these Bills is to mention things which allegedly happened under previous PN governments. These bills are there to help us get out of the FATF greylisting and improve Malta’s reputation abroad,” Grech said. 

Grech said that Malta cannot have a Prime Minister who ridicules proposed legal amendments which are there to protect journalists and hold corrupt politicians to account.

“A vote against these bills is a vote against the future of our country and history will judge us on the decisions we take today,” he said.

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